What is this conspiracy of voice, the friend’s voice who sings, this time, William Blake’s "Laughing Song”: “When the painted birds laugh in the shade / Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread / Come live & be merry and join with me, / To sing the sweet chorus of Ha, Ha, He.” What is this orgy of song in the canopy above my head? What is the lightless of walking alone outside, or what I find when I force myself to stop reading and walk across the bridge over the Charles River at sunset. The breeze becomes an analgesic, the cop inside my head is gagged and the light on the water mimics exactly a fourth of July sparkler that sparkles forever as a loop of light growing in the mind of the universe, a pulsating mass of iridescent cerebral matter which any of you can plug into at any time just by accepting that perdition is not where you are condemned to dwell, that at any moment you can will the cosmic umbilical cords to drop from the light-mind for you to plug into your foreheads.
So it was all just a joke my head played on me? Hell. Hell was just a joke I could unbelieve? In the poem, what was it I said? You do / you do undo. My being, invaginated by the levity of stealing all the food I can while sauntering through the party in my machine gun leggings. What is the nature of your being? Joohyun describes me as a “comedian” but why is it that some know me as a dour, joyless depressive? White people? Well, I guess not *all* of them. Memory of a conversation I had in D’s car about substance, Spinoza, friendship, and bad mixtures. What mixes well with me is sun but it’s difficult to reconcile this with being a creature of the night. On the nighttime walk to the library I close my eyes and am impaled by the sun. The streetlights are false moons. Behind the tree, the real moon. Through a window in the Science Center I see a man looking into a microscope. Above him, a room in which the sign LASERS AT USE is plastered. The bio- and cyberneticians are at work. I feel them everywhere in Cambridge, engineering our collective death. Around the corner a teenage boy folds his apron in the “Bon Me” food truck. His shift has just finished and soon he’ll be home or in the bed of a lover.
I remember…feeling inside my head but then getting hit by the sun from behind a tree. I look up, into the song. The wind breathes yellow rain, it falls from branches as bits of yellow confetti cut out of construction paper that litters the campus, sticks to the bottom of the shoes of students and is dragged into the library. The trees cry light so that we may be happy. Are you happy? The German mathematician walks by, he seems not to recognize me. I want to find L but I haven’t got my phone on me. The yellow leaves transport me to the backseat of Nat’s car, sitting next to Dana, pointing out the leaves to him, the way they catch the light on their way down.
To be on the road—it felt like an adolescent summer! “My last week of freedom.” But for the punks, the summer never ends. There’s no back-to-school to punctuate leisure time, for time does not revolve around the beginning and end of a semester and so on the same day I start school I receive a postcard from S of a picture of him and J hopping trains across the BC Rockies. But these short train hopping and sailing excursions are just a precursor to S’s main adventure: sailing to Hawaii, where I’m sure M will meet him on a tech research business trip funded by the US government. I want to write S, TAKE ME WITH YOU, but there is no return address—he’s on the move.
When Dana asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up I said, a traveler.
In the postcard photo both S and J are wearing navy blue jackets. S is doing a peace sign and J is flicking off the camera. Are they caricaturing their respective temperaments? I remember the summer I met them both. I remember somehow finding my way to J’s house—via M—I didn’t know him then. As we sat in his living room talking he told me stories about his travels across central American and then it clicked—he was the author of the only zine I brought with me that summer, a zine I randomly plucked from the New College zine library, One Way Ticket. “31 and 32 years old and still oogles,” S jokes in his letter. J is in a PhD program now, studying continental philosophy, still falling in love like it’s the first time.
Maybe it’s okay to use this space to take a break from concepts, theories, ideas, even literature. To try to find my way back to the non-teleological event of writing. A writing that is comfortable enough with itself to be simple, to just feel out the texture of a walk, or being with others. Small observations. So when people ask me what I’m working on I can say, nothing. I have no grand statements for you. I am a life, like you, and this is about that. As I observed the uneven brick sidewalk of Oxford St I remembered the sensation of what was once the most distinct of all feelings for me: gratitude.
It seemed to radiate from everything. I loved strangers. I loved to watch the way they were present with each other. The more confused they appeared to me, the more I loved them. I loved the backs of their heads while walking down crowded streets. I loved M for sitting with me in the Kunming cafes, letting me in against his better judgment. I loved the dog shit-paved streets of Govan (Glasgow), the majesty of Buchanan Street and the thoroughfares of foreign towns, walking down them in the warped consciousness of toothaches. “Busby Station”—when Joohyun said it, our train rides came back to me. The timbre of a certain accent heard over an intercom, seared into our minds. I even loved when Nemo the Dalmatian (RIP) stole the fruitcake in Nosh and Cloudberry’s living room. I loved the steam rising from the old houses on a rare sunny day in Glasgow. Today (the day I wrote this) the sun was so bright but it rained, for only an hour, and this hour of rain was synchronized exactly with my counseling session. From the fourth floor of the HUHS building I watched a storm rage and violently whip the leaves of a tree while the psychologist asked me questions about my depression. “I even loved everything bad, for it was part of the whole of life.” But this mentality also manifests as a self-destructive inability to stay mad at anyone. “Because she was real to me, I could not hate her.”
Was the rain sent to cleanse me?
Genuflect because there is gratitude—an all-pervasive feeling of contrition. Look at how my hatred softens. It is supple like silken tofu.
My skin betrays me by failing as a barrier.
But what does this ineptitude of skin allow me?
I loved coasting down the bridge into Lido Key.
I loved the Mesilla weeping willows. I loved my spice shelf in the house I lived in with P. I loved the smell of the cool air coming through the cracks of my Goodview porch room, walking down the snowy Hampden street on my birthday.
I have no grand statements for you. I have a bowl of pennies…some sentences and half-sentences. Scraps of patterned origami paper. I have…the parti-colored lights on the bridge into Poughkeepsie. Whispers in the backseat of a car. Daydreams of lives epically lived, but epic in feeling not wealth or importance. I have…a pigeon crashing into a glass walkway, falling to the ground, and dying. Twitching on the ground. The death throes. The way it stared at me right before dying. L, my dad and I were all deeply disturbed and as we pried ourselves from the distressing scene my father told us the story of the man who killed the last passenger pigeon, how they were once so abundant they blotted out the sky. We were looking for a place to eat…
There is history in every microtransaction, glances exchanged between strangers, or even the tear I left on the Woodberry table, the way the reflection of the light in the tear made it look like an eyeball with a laser pupil. The night will be good to you if you can resist the urge to blot out feeling with molecules that will make life bearable but less round. There is a night waiting for you, where you kill the fear that has been holding you hostage.
Loving as an owl, watching, at night, from a tree. Arboreal creature. We are made of feather, bliss, borrowed light. Write yourself into a state, again. Love and then sleep, some backtracking but all is not lost. “You are free”—but for how long? Life becomes this mythology of the everyday, made by freaks on their lonely, unscripted journeys.